A pig and a poke
Pigs are widely regarded as intelligent beasts, and yet they are conspicuous by their absence from the growing list of animals that use tools – until now, that is.
In preparation for the birth of piglets, Visayan warty pigs – a rare species native to the Philippines – dig vegetation-lined nest pits in the earth. But a captive group of four animals in the Ménagerie of the Jardin des Plantes, Paris, have been observed digging and shovelling the soil using not only their snouts and feet, but also sticks and bark held in their mouths.
Two of the three females in the group use the technique effectively. The lone male has been seen attempting the task, but with less success.
“Very little is known about the behaviour or ecology of Visayan warty pigs in the wild in the Philippines, including whether tool use is a naturally-occurring behaviour in this species,” write the biologists behind the discovery.
The behaviour has not been observed in other zoo populations, suggesting that it is not innate. The biologists argue that it is likely to have been an innovation on the part of one individual – probably a female named Priscilla, who is a particularly enthusiastic tool user – who was then copied by the others.
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Ground-breaking discovery: tool use among pigs.